Category Archives: dog breeds

Why huskies have blue eyes

DNA testing of more than 6,000 dogs has revealed that a duplication on canine chromosome 18 is strongly associated with blue eyes in Siberian Huskies, according to a study published October 4, 2018, in the open-access journal PLOS Genetics by Adam Boyko and Aaron Sams of Embark Veterinary, Inc., and colleagues.

Embark is a dog DNA startup company headquartered in Boston, MA, and Ithaca, NY, and research partner of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. According to the authors, this represents the first consumer genomics study ever conducted in a non-human model and the largest canine genome-wide association study to date.

Lakota

Embark dog, Lakota, shows off bright blue eyes. Credit: Jamie Leszczak CCAL

Consumer genomics enables genetic discovery on an unprecedented scale by linking very large databases of genomic data with phenotype information voluntarily submitted via web-based surveys. But the promise of consumer genomic data is not limited to human research. Genomic tools for dogs are readily available but the genetic underpinnings of many important traits remain undiscovered. Although two genetic variants are known to underlie blue eye color in some dogs, these do not explain the trait in some other dogs, like Siberian Huskies.

To address this gap in knowledge, Boyko, Sams and colleagues used a diverse panel of 6,070 genetically tested dogs with owners that contributed phenotype data via web-based surveys and photo uploads. They found that a 98.6-kilobase duplication on chromosome 18 near the ALX4 gene, which plays an important role in mammalian eye development, was strongly associated with variation in blue eye color, primarily in Siberian Huskies but also in non-merle Australian Shepherds. One copy of the variant was enough to cause blue eyes or heterochromia (blue and brown eyes), although some dogs with the variant did not have blue eyes, so other genetic or environmental factors are still involved.

Future studies of the functional mechanism underlying this association may lead to the discovery of a novel pathway by which blue eyes develop in mammals. From a broader perspective, the results underscore the power of consumer data-driven discovery in non-human species, especially dogs, where there is intense owner interest in the personal genomic information of their pets, a high level of engagement with web-based surveys, and an underlying genetic architecture ideal for mapping studies.

Aaron J. Sams adds: “Using genetic data from the pets of our customers, combined with eye colors reported by customers for those same animals, we have discovered a genetic duplication that is strongly associated with blue eye color. This study demonstrates the power of the approach that Embark is taking towards improving canine health. In a single year, we collected enough data to conduct the largest canine study of its kind. Embark is currently pursuing similar research projects in a range of morphological and health-related traits and we hope to continue to use our platform to move canine genetics and health forward in a very real way.”

Source:  Science Daily and PLOS Genetics

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Greyt Fashions

So to my regular readers, I’m sorry it’s been almost a week since my last posting.  That’s because I’ve been busy.  Really busy.

On Sunday, the culmination of 2 years of thoughts/ideas and 7 months of planning came to fruition in the form of Greyt Fashions, a fundraiser for greyhound adoption to support Greyhounds as Pets. This is the charity that matched Izzy and me back in 2014.  I aim to support dog adoption each year through fundraising, but this year has certainly topped all my previous efforts with $4994 raised in a single event.

The idea behind the show was simple:  highlight that greyhounds need clothes and let our volunteer owners show off their hounds in the clothing they had chosen for them.

Alongside the show, we had a silent auction and prize raffle of donated goods and services.  I was humbled by the number of sponsors which came on board at the first request.

It was an awesome day, and one that passed quite quickly for me.  Thankfully, the folks at Parker Photography also donated their services and were able to document the day for us.  More photos are expected on my Facebook page later this week as the photographers process and edit their photos.

I feel it is very important that local businesses give back to their communities in a tangible way.  I am in a lucky position to be able to devote some of my time in support of worthy causes and I would rather spend my time on these efforts than traditional ‘marketing.’

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

These 59 genes may make your dog more athletic

Compare the sprinting Shetland sheepdog with the sluggish St. Bernard, and it’s clear a dog’s genes play a large role in how athletic it is. Now, at the Biology of Genomes meeting here, scientists report identifying 59 genes linked to canine athletics, which apparently affect everything from heart rate to muscle strength. Early results suggest some may eventually help us understand human superstars.

Athletic dog

Some dogs are great athletes and genome studies are showing why. Gallia Painter Mackinnon/500px

“Across dogs, all sorts of traits have been selected for in an extreme way,” says Alexander Godfrey, a genomicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, who was not involved in the work. As such, dog genomics represents “a pretty unique and powerful system” for studying how genotypes, or sets of genes, result in phenotypes, or sets of observable characteristics in all types of animals, he says.

Past work on dogs has yielded genes for friendliness, hair type, and other relatively simple traits. But this new study looked at more complex ones, thanks to a new resource: a soon-to-be-released global database of the whole-genome sequences of 722 dogs across about 450 breeds, along with sequences for canine relatives, including wolves, foxes, and jackals.

Jaemin Kim, a postdoc working with canine genomicist Elaine Ostrander at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, focused on athleticism, in part because he wondered why he wasn’t any better at his favorite sport: basketball. He decided to start with the genes that turn sport dogs such as pointers, setters, and retrievers into the Michael Jordans of the canine world. He and colleagues compared the genomes of 21 individuals from 10 sport hunting breeds with 27 individuals from nine terrier breeds.

Fifty-nine genes, or the regions that control them, stood out, with certain versions of the DNA much more common in the sport dogs, Kim reported at the meeting. He and his colleagues could not easily verify their effects on athletic performance, but most are linked to traits including blood flow, heart rate, muscle strength, and even pain perception. One seems to help dogs remain calm after they hear a gunshot, he added, which may make them stable hunting companions; a different version in terriers may account for their well-known neuroticism.

To examine the role of these genes in other breeds, Kim needed a standard way of assessing athleticism. He decided to use agility trials, competitions in which dogs, guided by their owners, maneuver through an obstacle course in the shortest time possible. Data from the United States Dog Agility Association allowed him to calculate the best performing breeds: border collies and Shetland sheepdogs. The worst were Newfoundlands, bulldogs, and mastiffs.

Then, he compared whole genomes from the best and the worst, looking for differences in the 59 genes. Only one proved to be significant, a gene called ROBO1 that affects learning ability. So when it comes to agility, Kim said, it seems that a mental attribute may matter more than physical ones do. “It looks like it’s more of a training thing,” says Sarah Tishkoff, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved with the work.

“It’s interesting to think about what genes are associated with what traits,” Godfrey says. “That it would be a gene that’s not involved with muscles is not obvious.” Even though agility trials are a good measure, Godfrey cautions that in general humans are notoriously bad at objectively evaluating their own and other people’s dogs. And he wonders whether, even in agility, judges wind up “scoring aspects of human[like] behavior that they like” and not agility per se, he points out. Another issue is that there are other types of athleticism. Herding dogs, for example, are great athletes that race around keeping livestock together and headed in the right direction, even though they are not that muscular looking. Kim is starting to look at the genetic basis of that behavior.

Ostrander says the new results might one day help us better understand the genetic basis of athleticism in humans. Already, other researchers have implicated one of the 59 genes in improving human performance by improving blood flow, and it’s likely, she says, that others will also prove important. Dogs suffer many of the same health problems that people do, and canine versions of the relevant genes will be easier to track down. Because breeders work hard to bring out specific traits in their dogs, “you get mutations in pathways that have dramatic effects,” Tishkoff explains.

Source:  Science

Don’t call them lazy

Izzy and I do a fair amount of volunteering for our local re-homing group, Greyhounds as Pets.  In describing the greyhound, I often hear the term lazy used as in “they are very lazy dogs and like to sleep most of the day.”

The Oxford dictionary defines lazy as “unwilling to work or use energy.”   I don’t find Izzy unwilling to expend energy; she’ll happily join me for walks twice a day (except when it is raining heavily and then she needs some encouragement).    Often she will instigate play time herself – typically in the evening after dinner – when she zooms around the house with one or more of her toys.  Yes, she plays for about 5-10 minutes, but she does play.

And in my mobile service, she often accompanies me in the car to meet and greet clients.  (Yes, she also sleeps in the car but the point is – she is always happy to go in the car and usually bounces into the garage before I have time to clip on her car harness.)

The synonyms for lazy include slothful, inactive,  idle and slow-moving.    These terms remind me of the stereotypical fat person whose preferred activity is sitting on their sofa eating junk food and drinking.

Like Homer Simpson.

And greyhounds are definitely not slow-moving when they decide it’s time for a zoomie.

Izzy is certainly not fat, either.  She’s a svelte girl who has maintained her ideal weight for the 3 1/2 years that she has been in my life.  Most of her greyhound friends are equally as fit.

So I think we do a disservice to the breed by calling them lazy because lazy has many negative connotations. No one enjoys working with someone who is lazy and doesn’t carry their weight, for example.

Instead, I propose:

“Greyhounds are discerning in what activities they choose to undertake.”  (A sign of quality and taste!)

and

“Greyhounds are energy-conserving.” (A dog that is kind to the earth and sustainable!)

Greyhounds – don’t call them lazy.

 

I'm not lazy

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Demography and disorders of the French Bulldog population

French Bulldogs, predicted soon to become the most popular dog breed in the UK, are vulnerable to a number of health conditions, according to a new study published in the open access journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology.

Researchers at The Royal Veterinary College (RVC), UK found that the most common issues in French Bulldogs over a one year period were ear infections, diarrhea and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye surface).

FB

French Bulldog puppy. Credit: © Mary Swift / Fotolia

Dr. Dan O’Neill, RVC Senior Lecturer and the main author, said: “French Bulldogs are a relatively new arrival to the list of common UK breeds so there is very little current research on them in the UK. Our study — the first on this breed in the UK — is based on anonymised records gathered from hundreds of UK vet clinics. It provides owners with information on the issues that they could expect and should look out for in French Bulldogs. It may also help potential new owners to decide if a French Bulldog really is for them.”

Dr. O’Neill adds: “One of the interesting finding from our research is that male French Bulldogs appear to be less healthy than females. Males were more likely to get 8 of the 26 most common health problems while there were no issues that females were more likely to get than males.”

The authors suggest that the distinctive appearance of the French Bulldog, with their short muzzles and wide, prominent eyes, may be a key factor influencing their popularity. However, these characteristics may also increase the risk for some of the health problems seen in French Bulldogs. For example breathing issues, seen in 12.7% of the dogs in this study, are a known problem in breeds with short noses and flat faces. Skin problems overall were the most common group of health issues and the authors suggest that this may be due to the skin folds that are characteristic of the breed.

Dr. O’Neill said: “This study also documents the dramatic rise in popularity of the French Bulldog, from 0.02% of puppies born in 2003 to 1.46% of puppies born in 2013. This level of population growth in a single dog breed is unprecedented. There is a worry that increased demand for the French Bulldog is damaging to these dogs’ welfare because of the health risks associated with their extreme physical features.”

The authors analyzed data on 2,228 French Bulldogs under veterinary care during 2013 from 304 UK clinics, collected in the VetCompass™ database. The French Bulldogs had a median age of 1.3 years old compared to a median age of 4.5 years for the other dog breeds in the VetCompass™ database. This reflects the growth in popularity of French Bulldogs.

The authors caution that the study may even under-estimate the true number of dogs with health problems as the data may include more severely affected animals that require veterinary management. Additionally, as French Bulldogs have only recently become popular the data was mostly collected from young dogs and it is well recognized that health problems generally become more common with age.

Source:  Science Daily

Read the journal article here

 

2018 American Rescue Dog Show

Move over Westminster because rescue dogs have just been put into the spotlight with their very own show.

Premiering on the Hallmark Channel on Monday, 19th February 2018 – the American Rescue Dog Show!

I’m not sure we will ever get this in New Zealand (possibly through Netflix but it isn’t there yet)…but it is great to see Rescue Dogs being promoted to the public.

***For the record, rescue dogs may be mixed or pure breeds – a dog finds itself in need of rescue mostly because of human actions or inaction and not breeding***

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Two french bulldogs and a pug

Today, I gave Aki, Haru, and Yuki their Christmas presents – relaxation massages paid for by their Dad.  I was booked up last week when he rang and couldn’t fit in 3 hours of massage before the holiday – luckily everyone was happy to wait.

All I knew was that I was going to meet “two french bulldogs and a pug.”  I was not disappointed; all three were charming.  Yuki is the oldest, and will be 8 years old in March; Aki is 5; Haru will be 2 in February.

Pug

Yuki the Pug

French Bulldog

Haru the French Bulldog

French Bulldog

Aki the French Bulldog

Massages for your dog make a wonderful gift; relaxation massage distributes the oils of the coat to support skin health, allows your dog to chill out and be the center of attention, and I report back on any lumps and bumps I find to ensure you have discussed these with your vet.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand